Tuesday, March 22, 2011
Moe: A Big To-Do About Nothing
The anime community tends to unanimously agree and disagree on a lot of topics and issues. More so then most other fandoms. Unfortunately, that's not always a good thing. For instance, it's a big trend for the majority of the community to come down on or hate a specific anime or manga and it's fandom just because it's popular, such as K-On!! or Haruhi Suzumiya. On the flipside, we can get annoyed when a really good piece of fiction doesn't get the recognition we feel it deserves, like Summer Wars' consideration for an Oscar nomination. But, just like every other fandom I'm a part of, there are some things rub me the wrong way. One of those things is the anime community's stance on a certain characteristic that's been popping up a bit more recently. A characteristic that includes ditziness, big eyes, and cute actions. Let's talk about Moe....
Moe, pronounced "Mo-eh", is a term used to describe a character who's cute, timid, somewhat clumsy, perhaps a bit ditsy and just makes you think "Wow.....I just wanna take her home with me, she's so cute!!" Recently we've been seeing more and more of these characters pop up here and there. A few examples include Sae Nakata from Amagami SS, Tsukasa Hiragi from Lucky Star and Mikuru Asahina from The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. This type of character has grown more and more popular with each passing year, especially amongst Japanese male crowds, which can be considered a bit.....creepy. Because of this popularity, however, we've also been seeing a lot of throw-away characters and concept whose only purpose is to be cutesy without any reason or substance. In my opinion, these factors have lead to moe's current status as a plague that spreads through the industry. Many fans claim that moe, amongst other things, is ruining anime and manga when really, it's not even close to being that bad.
What makes for a good moe character? Well it's really simple. It's all about character and personality. If if moeness is more of a trait that's part of a character instead of being the whole point, then it works much better. For instance let's look at the previously mentioned Mikuru Asahina. A big trait of hers is her timidness. She squeals, she shrieks, she tears up, but she's still a sweet and adorable girl. However, that's not all she's there for. Mikuru is also a very strong character who acknowledges that she can be useless at crucial times but still tries her best. There's a moe character that's more then just an uguu~ face. Then there are shows with a moe-like cast. K-On!!, for example, is usually panned by most anime fans for being nothing but cutesy girls doing cutesy things when really there's more to that, as my review mentioned. The characters all have distinct personalities and the show itself shows just how much they bond throughout the series, as well as subtly building their characters. Plus the music is awesome. Lastly, let's talk about a western version of moe. My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic has been taking the Internet by storm due to it's very sweet and cute art style. Because of that, most people assume that that's the only reason for it's popularity, claiming it'll be just another dying meme in month or so. In reality it's art style is only part of it's popularity. For a show aimed at young girls, it's actually a very well written and well acted cartoon. The dialogue is great, the characters are likable and the crew working on it, lead by the brilliant Lauren Faust, wife of the equally brilliant Craig Mccracken who created Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends, know this and know of the recent popularity. This is a show were it's cuteness draws you in to what it really is; a wonderful show. If anything, it's the best example of moe done perfectly.
So how should one view the art of moe? Well it would help if you don't write it automatically just because a few stick-in-the-muds say it's a terrible trend. There are plenty of shows and manga that do moe the way it should be done. If you want a good series to start out with then My Little Pony is the way to go. It's a perfect example of cuteness with substance. After that you'll know exactly what to look for when there's moe involved. Cuteness isn't a plague, it's a character trait that can only be made stronger by good character development. If the anime community can just realize this instead of giving it a tongue-lashing maybe we'll start getting more examples of good moe characters instead of meaningless adorableness.